Fausto Carmona: The New Roberto Hernandez, Again
By Mike Brandyberry
Yesterday Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti told Paul Hoynes and Dennis Manoloff that if the pitcher who was previously known as Fausto Carmona returns to the Indians he will indeed be known as Roberto Hernandez.
Interesting enough, Carmona has already played with a Roberto Hernandez. Huh?
In 2007, while Carmona was having his best season as a big leaguer, compiling a 19-8 record and finishing fourth in the Cy Young voting, an aging right hander sat in the Indians’ bullpen hoping to hang on, named Roberto Hernandez. The original Hernandez, who is from Puerto Rico, was a closer for ten years in the big leagues, mostly with the Chicago White Sox, then Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals.
The reliever was signed by the Indians prior to the 2007 season to help stabilize the Tribe’s bullpen. When the team left Spring Training that season Hernandez was slated to be a right-handed set up man for closer, Joe Borowski. He made 28 appearances, pitching 26 innings with a 6.23 ERA. On June 28, the Tribe released the righty who was unable to fulfill the role they hoped he would.
Twice, they pitched in the same game. On May 7, Carmona worked seven innings in a 10-1 victory over Baltimore. After leaving, Tom Mastny worked the eighth and Hernandez mopped up the final frame. Nearly a month later, Hernandez took the mound on June 1 against the Tigers, earning the final out in the top of the ninth inning before the Tribe rallied to score five runs in the bottom half, giving the Indians a 12-11 victory. Hernandez earned the win, his final as an Indian and in his career.
How strange it must have been for Carmona that season, ironically his best, to hear his real name announced and it not be him heading to the mound.
Fast forward five years and suddenly the old Carmona, now Hernandez, finds himself in much the similar role as the first Hernandez; aging, probably with his best days behind him and hoping to salvage a major league career a little longer. Much of Carmona’s plight was caused by his poor choices. He’s aged three years in an offseason and suddenly the idea that he will find that 2007 prowess again seems distant.
Since Carmona was arrested last month outside the U.S. Consulate in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the Indians have traded for Kevin Slowey, and pending physical, have signed Jon Garland. When healthy, each might be better than Carmona’s production since 2008. The Indians claim they want the Carmona to return, but are quick to note they do not have to pay him until he can report to the team with a valid U.S. Visa.
The Indians are a team who don’t like to waste money, and if Carmona can’t get to Goodyear soon the team may find a suitable replacement for the erratic starter. That replacement will certainly not command a $7 million price tag for this season. If Carmona can’t report to work and be able to produce, no one would blame the team for voiding his contract and using that money for a mid season trade to stay in a playoff race.
Carmona may have a new name when he returns, but if he doesn’t find a way to return quickly, he may find himself in the same plight as the last big leaguer to use the same name, struggling to stay on the Indians’ roster.
Photo: Getty Images